Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ukraine: the News is Not Good

The Ukraine is an embattled country now and each day the news is worse as Putin masterminds the takeover of the whole country bit by bit.

I learned recently that my father was born in what used to be the capitol of the Ukraine, Kharkiv.  And as many emigres to the United States in the 1920's who endured many hardships in Europe with the end of World War I, he never talked about his past, or we would get little snippets of information in which, being young, we never were that interested. He changed his name which even made the getting the facts harder.  But as we grow older we are now more curious about our parents and their stories.

Although my grandparents were Estonian, our father was born in the Ukraine when it was part of the the Russian Empire, so the old maps of the Ukraine do not show the borders of Ukraine which was an independent country following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Ukraine has endured untold hardships including the "Holodomor" 1932-1933, the systematic starvation by Stalin to erase the rise of Ukrainian nationalism, when 7 million people died of starvation.  And many in the United States during those years, denied what was occurring.

Now as our world leaders are debating what to do, how to help, actual help is not forthcoming. Words will not do it, force will.  Notice what Jordan, Egypt and Turkey did in the last few weeks to mitigate threats to their countries.

I know the situation is complicated, but I wanted to write a few lines about my support for my father's birthplace.

February 28

In the Wall Street Journal today is a photo of a bridge near Red Square where opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov was gunned down which  authorities say was a contract killing.  One day before his planned march in opposition to Vladimir Putin's government. In the background, you can see Red Square all lit up with outlined lights.

The cruelty and oppression learned during the 70 years of Communist Rule has not been forgotten.

Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev is a book about "the surreal heart of the new Russia," a superb description of the Jekyll and Hyde of Russia today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mozart!

Today is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Birthday, January 27, 1756-1791, just 35 years old when he died, not of poisoning but strep throat which led to kidney failure it is thought.

I am a Mozart fan, not an intellectual choice I know, but Mozart's music makes me happy, and such a prodigious output of compositions.  The operas are wonderful and so beautifully composed.  My favorite is "The Marriage of Figaro" with the Countess' aria at the beginning of Act II, "Dove Sono,"  a special favorite, "Oh love give me some remedy."The music is filled with sadness  and longing as she laments her husband's infidelity.

There are many You Tube selections for this particular aria.  And if you have time, "The Making of Amadeus" is worthwhile viewing.  "Amadeus" was filmed in Prague, Czechoslovakia during the communist occupation and the cast and crew had some trying and interesting challenges in the making of the movie, but funny stories as well.

Happy Birthday Mozart!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Viva La France, always

We begin the New Year with a horrific attack on a magazine's editorial office in France.  It left twelve journalists and two police officer's dead.  The Eiffel Tower was in darkness for five minutes in a memorial tribute to the fallen.  And this was not the only terrorist attack.  Over the past year there have been many all over the world.

The problems are huge, and as in the 9/11 attack in New York, this brings the war, and it is a war, closer to home, in this case, Paris.

I have always loved the idea of Paris, even though I have only visited the city and country, three times over the past years.  But when I think about Paris, I see a beautiful city with so much history, history of bad times and good times.  The bloody French Revolution, the occupation of France during World War II, hard times after the war and so many governments, but still she emerged somehow stronger.

This is a task of monumental proportions.  Courage and clarity will be needed in the difficult times ahead for all of us.